Spoonful #89: Synonym Fan Club
I relied heavily on my trusty Roget's Thesaurus throughout high school and college. These days, lucky writers can easily access synonyms on mobile phones and computers. If you aren't already a fan of synonyms, I hope you will be after reading this post!
4 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE SYNONYMS
Reason #1: Eliminate Repetition
Why use the same words over and over when you can enliven your essay, story, or speech with sparkling synonyms?
Reason #2: Increase Vocabulary
Thesaurus.com (part of dictionary.com) makes it simple to look up synonyms. Yes, you should look up definitions if don't know the meanings of any of the words. But whenever possible, use synonyms instead. To test your comprehension, turn index cards into vocabulary cards, turn a small journal into your custom vocabulary book, or create an online Quizlet. The ultimate goal should be the ability to use these new words in appropriate sentences.
Here are some ideas I've used to make learning vocabulary fun for elementary and middle school children: crosswords, word searches, word matching, and clever fill-in-the-blank sentences. Additionally, Thesaurus.com has recently added Synonyms of the Day and Synonyms for Overused Words. If you like the image I used for this post, it hails from GrammarTOP.com.
Reason #3: Enliven and Elevate Writing
Are your essays dull and lifeless? Are your characters indistinguishable? Synonyms to the rescue! Here are some examples, ranging from simple to fancy to super casual.
exciting = exhilarating = breathtaking = astonishing = groovy
good = acceptable = agreeable = satisfying = awesome
bad = atrocious = dreadful = defective = cruddy
villain = antihero = miscreant = reprobate = creep
tired = fatigued = haggard = drained = burned out
make = compose = fabricate = synthesize = brew
find = discover = detect = pinpoint = unearth
Reason #4: Ace Standardized Tests
The SSAT Verbal section has 30 synonym and 30 analogy questions, all of which require advanced vocabulary. In the Reading sections of the SSAT/SAT/ACT, synonyms often appear in correct answers. Don't wait until right before taking those tests to work on your vocabulary. If you start earlier, you can learn a manageable number of words each day. If you wait, you'll end up cramming, and it's harder for the words to stick.
Here are two engaging vocabulary books I recommend:
The Vocabulary Builder Workbook by Chris Lele from Magoosh
SAT Vocabulary: The Essential 500 Words by Larry Krieger
I hope I've convinced you to dust off your thesaurus, physical or virtual, and to become a charter member of my Synonym Fan Club!
Laura F. Cooper
EVEN though EVEN or Odd EVEN = equal EVEN = flat and smooth
There are many valid uses of the root word EVEN. But EVEN (like its pal JUST) has a way of sneaking into sentences a wee bit too often.
Typically, the intention behind adding EVEN is to impart emphasis.
Below, I'll share 3 sentences and provide guidance about when it's appropriate to let EVEN stay and when you should ask EVEN to leave. In each example, imagine the characters are a 16-year-old boy and his father.
"I moved the lawn and even cleaned out the garage! Please let me go to the beach with my friends! "
STAY? If the father has repeatedly been asking his son to clean out the garage, or is bothered by the state of the garage, then yes, emphasis is warranted.
LEAVE? If this is the first time this point is mentioned, hit delete. "I mowed the lawn and cleaned out the garage! " is more direct and appropriate in this case.
"I don't even get off work until 10:30PM. I'll be too tired to take out the trash when I get home."
STAY? If this is the last point the boy is making to strengthen his case, then let EVEN stay.
LEAVE? If this is the only point the boy is making, EVEN isn't necessary. Try instead, "I don't get off work until 10:30. I'll be too tired to take out the trash when I get home."
"The score was tied at 3-3 even, and I scored two of the runs!"
STAY? Nope! Tied = EVEN, so this is a case of unnecessary repetition. Scored and score are similar too.
LEAVE? Yes! Try this instead: "We tied at 3-3, and I scored two of the runs!" See how the meaning is unchanged?
I'm enjoying an e-book right now with well-drawn characters, intriguing world building, and a fresh take on a popular Disney story. However, I can't help but notice there's glaring overuse of EVEN. So this is my advice to writers everywhere: before you hit submit, do a JUST-check and an EVEN-check of your work!
Thank you for reading and sharing my latest spoonful. It's good to be back! If you wish to comment on this or any post, click on the word "Comments" directly below.
Laura F Cooper
Spoonful #84: Just Do it!
For many months, I've wrestled with whether or not to resume A Spoonful of Grammar. But I woke up this morning and decided to JUST DO IT! I hope my faithful readers have been saving up lots of grammar and punctuation questions for me!!
It's A-OK when we tell ourselves to JUST DO IT (cue up the Nike ad for inspiration). But telling others is akin to saying, "My patience is wearing thin. Do it before I blow my top!" If you want to instigate verbal sparring between real people or fictional characters, go ahead and use this phrase.
Now let's discuss just plain JUST.
JUST has a way of sneaking into written and oral sentences. "Just remember to sign your name" is an example where JUST can easily be removed without changing the sentence's meaning. Isn't "Remember to sign your name" more direct?
When is JUST appropriate to use? When something was recently completed or a person or character wants to say they'll be ready soon. Here are two examples:
I just finished waxing the floor. Don't step on it yet!
Just a minute! I'll be downstairs in two shakes of a lamb's tail. (Believe it or not, my mom occasionally used that expression!)
Now for two examples where JUST could easily be dropped:
Do you just want to mull it over before making a final decision?
Will you just quiet down?
Here's my advice to writers everywhere: do a JUST check of your writing, whether it's a story, a paper for school, a speech, or a business presentation. Don't be afraid to give JUST a swift kick if it sneaks in where it doesn't belong.
I hope you enjoyed this spoonful! If you know anyone who would enjoy this or any of my earlier spoonfuls, please feel free to share!
Laura F. Cooper
Spoonful #82: Reign, Rain, Rein
As I watched the changing precipitation yesterday, the homophone trio REIGN/RAIN/REIN popped into my head. Gather 'round (virtually) while I provide definitions and sentences for each word.
REIGN/REIGNING = To rule or hold sovereignty over a kingdom or sporting event. Synonyms: rule/ruling, incumbent, lead/leading, prevail/prevailing
#1: Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of England on February 6, 1952 and still reigns today.
#2: The reigning Super Bowl Champions are the Kansas City Chiefs, whose 2020 win over the San Francisco 49ers marked their first since Super Bowl IV.
RAIN = this type of precipitation falls from the clouds in the form of drops
Rain, rain go away! Come again some other day.
There are four types of raindrops and four types of rain. Check out sciencing.com for more information!
REIN = restrain, bridle, or control, or limit. FREE REIN, which means freedom, is the antonym or opposite.
Tug on the reins gently or the horse will spook.
Rein in your anger, or you'll fall prey to the dark side like Anakin Skywalker was.
The rain has turned to snow, and the latest forecast calls for 6-12 inches in my neck of the woods. Stay warm and safe, everyone!
Laura Fineberg Cooper
A Spoonful of Grammar
Spoonful #78: SO MANY THINGS
At first, NOTHING popped into my mind for this week's spoonful. But then, eureka! I reflected that THING is the least descriptive noun in the English language. I decided to challenge YOU, my readers, to banish THING in any of its forms from the following sentences (and from all your writing). If you dare, please share your creative, descriptive replacement sentences in the comments section!
1.) Eek! It's a THING!
2.) I can't wait to hear about the THING you saw last night.
3.) What a remarkable THING that is.
4.) Please bring SOMETHING, ANYTHING to make this party fun.
5.) Let me describe this animal to you. It's a THING!
6.) John brought chairs, blankets, and THINGS to the beach.
Have oodles of fun with this! My next Spoonful of Grammar will be about SOMETHING else, I promise you.
Laura Fineberg Cooper